Economic growth in Spokane County may be ready to take off with the expansion of the aerospace industry, county Commissioner Al French said Friday.
Spokane is on the verge of attracting two new aerospace employers while two other companies are expanding operations, French said during an annual State of the County address to community and business leaders gathered at CenterPlace Regional Events Center.
“We are in the game, folks, and aerospace is hot right now,” French said at the breakfast gathering of Greater Spokane Incorporated, the region’s chamber of commerce.
The county’s policy of expanding light industrial land on the West Plains is part of the picture, along with its work to make rail service available on the county-owned Geiger Spur, French said.
Aviation Technical Services, based in Everett, is in the latter stages of a proposal to bring as many as 400 to 500 new jobs to Spokane International Airport. The company provides maintenance services for airlines.
Associated Painters Inc., which already operates at the airport, is expanding with a second hangar, French said.
Also, Wemco is expanding to a new facility on Thorpe Road in a controversial project located next to a historic farmhouse. Wemco supplies equipment for agriculture, aviation and other industries.
Yet to be announced is the expected arrival of a company that specializes in metals manufacturing for aerospace, French said. He did not provide any details or identify the company but said an announcement is expected within two weeks.
French defended the county’s vote last year to expand the urban growth area, creating additional industrial land on the West Plains. Opponents of urban sprawl have challenged that decision.
The industries coming to Spokane may not be at the level of Boeing, but they are finding that Spokane’s labor force is sufficiently skilled and may be willing to take jobs paying less than aerospace jobs in other locations, he said.
Recruitment efforts are a regional partnership of government, businesses, airport officials and educators, French said.
Economic growth is critical for the county’s ability to continue delivering public services at a time when tax collections are growing slowly, he said.
Commissioners have launched efforts to reduce costs through efficiencies, regional partnerships, energy conservation and holding the line on labor costs, the commissioner said.
In French’s audience were elected leaders from the Spokane Valley City Council and Airway Heights, who have balked at joining a newly reorganized countywide garbage system.